European Rail Supported by European GNSS

October 16, 2014  - By
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bernina-express-on-the-tirano-street-W Photo: European GNSS Agency (GSA)

Photo: European GNSS Agency (GSA)

By the European GNSS Agency (GSA)

As European satellites offer a possibility to improve the efficiency of train control systems, GNSS technology is starting to gain momentum in the rail sector. To promote the role of GNSS in this important sector, the European GNSS Agency (GSA) recently exhibited at Innotrans — a leading rail transport tradeshow.

EGNOS can and, in the future, Galileo will provide continuous and highly reliable positioning service — helping increase the competitiveness of rail among other modes of transportation. Currently, GNSS in European rail is primarily used within non-safety-of-life applications, including asset management and passenger information services. However, the latest technological developments show that augmented GNSS, together with specific sensors, can help satisfy the stringent CENELEC Safety and Integrity Level requirements.

As a result, the rail sector has an increasing demand for cost-effective and innovative GNSS applications for both safety critical and non-safety critical purpose. For example, in the safety-critical domain, GNSS-based applications can provide signaling and autonomous train control. In the non-safety critical domain, GNSS is helping improve the performance of asset management and passenger information systems.

Showcasing the E-GNSS Advantage

With rail becoming an important market segment for GNSS technology, and to put emphasis on the many benefits E-GNSS can bring the rail sector, for the first time the GSA exhibited at a rail tradeshow. At Innotrans, one of the leading international tradeshows for the sector held September 23-26 in Berlin, the GSA showcased the EGNOS advantage for rail.

Joining a panel discussion hosted by the European Railways Agency (ERA) entitled “How Heaven Could Support European Train Control System (ETCS),” GSA Head of Market Development Gian-Gherardo Calini explained how European GNSS can serve as a solution to some of the problems the sector currently faces.

“Although rail will become a major market for E-GNSS, it is already providing benefits, such as helping to improve safety,” he said. “Our role at the GSA is to serve the end user by making sure the technology delivers the necessary solutions.”

Calini acknowledged there are challenges to the sector’s full adoption of GNSS, but stated that other sectors have overcome challenges and are benefiting from E-GNSS: “It is a successful reality in other transport sectors, especially aviation, and we must focus on building from these experiences,” he said.

The ERTMS/ETCS is a major industrial project that aims to replace Europe’s different national train control and command systems. The deployment of ERTMS will enable the creation of a seamless European railway system with aligned signalling — essential to increasing the competitiveness of European railways.

Europe’s GNSS systems — Galileo and EGNOS — are actively contributing to the needed evolution of the ERTMS. One example of this long-term perspective is the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking, whose objective is also to support the adoption of GNSS in the rail sector. Within this undertaking, it is foreseen that both Galileo and EGNOS will be brought into ERTMS standards and foster European GNSS adoption in the area of Low Density Lines.

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